The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which was already in an embarrassing position after an Argentine court turned down its request for Ottavio Quattrocchi’s extradition, has been dealt yet another blow in the case.
According to agency reports from Buenos Aires, the El Dorado court has ordered CBI to pay for Quattrocchi's legal fees. The ruling, the report stated, was significant as under Argentine law, a judge issues such an order only if he believes that the defendant did not have a case to answer, which suggests that the judge was not convinced that the CBI had grounds to file for Quattrocchi's extradition.
The agency, under fire for its repeated failures in the case, was completely taken aback by the disclosure. No senior official was ready to comment on the issue, with the CBI director holidaying in the US. It was only late in the evening that officials confirmed that the agency had indeed been asked to pay for Quattrocchi's legal fees. They, however, refused to quote how much money they would have to shell out.
The two-member CBI team sent to Argentina to pursue their case returned back on Monday. CBI officials were at a complete loss of words when asked whether their team hadn't been briefed by their lawyer in Argentina on the contents of the 28-page order passed by the judge on Friday. The full order is expected on Wednesday. The agency tried to save face by saying that the order was in Spanish and was being translated to English.
CBI, from the beginning, has been facing allegations of a cover-up in the case. It had kept the news of Quattrocchi's detention under wraps for 17 days in February and made it public on the day, when ironically, he was released from custody.
The ruling, officials said, also raises questions on the outcome of CBI's appeal, if they decide to go for one, in the Argentine Supreme Court. Miguel Almeyra, the lawyer acting on behalf of the CBI, had indicated that they will be lodging an appeal although no such action has been taken as yet.
"The ruling raises a number of questions. An Interpol red corner notice had been issued against the accused on the basis of an arrest warrant in India. If the accused is detained on a red corner notice in some country, India has every right to seek his extradition," a senior official said.
The agency report quoted Quattrocchi as saying that he was "satisfied that justice had been done." His lawyer, Alejandro Freeland said, "The Indian case was incomplete and Quattrocchi's detention in Argentina was illegal from the outset."
"The CBI only brought half the papers relating to the case and did not bring the judgements from the New Delhi High Court which effectively overruled the Interpol notice for arrest issued in 1997," Freeland was quoted as saying.
(with agency inputs)